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Renewable energy will never be 100% green, says expert

Wind turbines under a moody sky.
Wind turbines under a moody sky. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Pascale DaviesMaeve Campbell
Published on Updated
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Professor Jacques Treiner explains that other energy-exhausting factors like the manufacturing of wind turbines, mean that clean energy isn't completely sustainable.


Switching to clean energy is the best chance we have of slowing down the climate crisis. By generating power that produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels, we are diversifying our energy supplies and reducing dependence on ground-ravaging fuels.

And the uptake is only improving around the world. In the first quarter of 2020, global use of renewable energy in all sectors increased by about 1.5 per cent compared to 2019.

Despite this, one theoretical physicist is arguing that renewable sources can never be 100 per cent green, due to the emissions generated from manufacturing them.

“There are no zero emission energy supplies because you have to manufacture the devices, the installation, you have to manufacture them,” says Professor Jacques Treiner.

“And for them to be zero-emission, there would have to be zero-emission energy mixes.”

Treiner rejects the idea of ‘green’ energy, implying that the term has become a mere buzzword nowadays.

“Energy has no colour. Green energy, grey, red, blue etc. I don’t know. What I do know is which energy sources emit greenhouse gasses or not.”

But even if we could build 100 per cent clean energy supplies, we can’t yet rely on solar or wind as our main sources of energy, the professor adds.

“There is no knob that you can turn that makes the thermonuclear reactions in the sun more intense or less intense when we need more or less electricity. For the wind, it is the same. These energies are inexhaustible. But we don't control the flow.”

The key is learning how to store energy better, Treiner concludes.

“Today when it comes to using renewable energies on a large scale, we don’t know how to store energy. If we knew how to do it, on the days of high production, we would stock it and we would use it during moments of low production. But we do not know how to do that on a massive scale. And so, we cannot, at the moment, envisage an electrical mix that is 100% renewable energy.”

Click on the video above to learn more about renewable energy.

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